tv PBS News Hour PBS October 20, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: longtime libyan leader moammar qaddafi is dead. good evening, i'm jeffrey brown. >> warner: and i'm margaret warner. on the "newshour" tonight, we have full coverage of how the dictator was found and killed and how libyans are celebrating today. >> brown: we'll also look back at qaddafi's brutal 42-year rein and hear reaction to his death from leaders around the globe. >> this marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of libya, who now have
the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic libya. >> warner: plus, we analyze president obama's approach to intervening in libya in a supporting, but not leading role in the nato mission. >> brown: then, science correspondent miles o'brien looks at the elusive search for accurate predictions of where and when earthquakes will strike. >> using japan's uniquely dense network of seismometers, researchers have created a detailed map of previous earthquakes. it is a very clear view in the rear view mirror, but not a crystal ball. >> warner: and betty ann bowser reports on the questions raised about a routine test for prostate cancer. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> computing surrounds us. sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's very surprising where you find it. soon, computing intelligence in unexpected places will change our lives in truly profound
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>> brown: revolutionary forces killed libyan strongman moammar qaddafi today and overwhelmed his hometown of sirte-- the last major bastion of resistance. the 69-year-old dictator had been a hunted man after fighting began in february and the fall of tripoli in august. he is the first leader to be killed in the arab spring uprisings. we begin our coverage tonight with a report narrated by alex thomson of "independent television news." a warning: there are some graphic images in this story. >> reporter: celebrations in sirte and across libya. the libyan revolution of 2011 was about one thing above all else, removing cornell qaddafi from power. today concludes that revolution. but tonight confusion about how he died, this appears to be what happened. shortly after 8 a.m. a nato air strike hit two vehicles outside sirte.
qaddafi took cover in this land drain. the presence of a body indicates a fire fight. then video released appears to prove he was taken alive, on a main road, the location is rural, not built up. they scheme god is great. one key question tonight, although wounded did moammar qaddafi die from wounds received before he was taken alive or was he executed after these images were filmed. through celebrating libyans would care very much, viewers should be warned that in a moment we will be showing some of the disturbing images as fighters filmed on their mobile phones what appears to be qaddafi's dead body. many libyans say they need to see that, in fact, he is dead. his body turned over in the streets. the crowd chaotic, almost hysterical, firing guns in celebration. there's much more of that
best left unshown. in tripoli from the chairman of the interim government, the simple statement, moammar qaddafi has been killed. >> i think it's for the libyans to realize that this is a sign to start a new libya, with a new economy, with a new education, with a new health system, with a new look to the future. united libya, one people and one future. >> reporter: let the final word tonight be with the revolutionary military commander in tripoli once tortured by the british, a man of experience and memory, mark his words. >> with this news, we've done a great job to liberate all the country. and libya is now facing a big challenge, to rebuild a new libya
>> brown: libya's interim leaders announced that one of qaddafi's sons, his former national security adviser motassim, was also killed in sirte. a second son, and heir apparent, seif al-islam, was wounded and captured. for more on today's developments, i spoke this afternoon to i.t.n.'s lindsey hilsum in tripoli. >> brown: lindsey, thanks for joining us. so in the end were people there surprised that qaddafi was still in sirte and surprised by how this all ended? >> i think people were surprised. although the acting prime minister said that they knew for the last week that colonel qaddafi had been on the move. they thought that he had been in algeria at one point and then he had gone back to the place where he was born. and of course what people are saying is that is where he was born, that was where he had to die. but people who i spoke to earlier in the day just didn't believe it was true, initially. they wouldn't believe it until they saw a picture. once they saw the picture of colonel qaddafi, that was the moment when they said yes, it's over.
after 42 years, he's really dead. and although some certainly in the west will be saying this was an extra judicial killing, this was the wrong way of doing it, libyans who i have been speaking to are saying he's gone. that's the most important thing for them. >> brown: and what of that question of how exactly he died. do you have any more information on the precise sequence of events? >> what we understand is this. that early in the morning around 8:30 a.m., there was a nato strike on a convoy. we think that colonel qaddafi and possibly two of his sons were in that convoy. colonel qaddafi, we think, was injured and he stumbled out, surrounded by some of his guards. and he found shelter in these big drainage pipes. that's that was where he was when fighters found him. he was dragged out, and he was at this point alive. he was injured, however.
what we think happened then was that he was kicked and treated as you might expect him to be treated by the fighters who hated him so much. and then an 18-year-old fighter is saying that he shot him. now what the transitional council is saying that until an investigation is done, they can't confirm this. and the think the people are saying that he died of his wounds. a doctor is saying he died of wounds to the head and the chest. it looks as if he was shot after being injured. so we can't confirm that yet. >> brown: well, you're in tripoli tonight. was's the mood there. >> joyful. there are honking horns. there is some celebratory gunfire although the authorities here are trying to stop people doing that because it's very dangerous. even the ships in the harbor have been sounding their sirens. and at the mosques they are playing out, people are
shouting,-- some of the people i have been speaking to say we wish he had been taken alive. one man i spoke to said i wanted to see him in a cage. i wanted to see him admitting to his crimes. because i wanted him to have to stand there and be told about all the suffering of the libyan people over the last 42 years. mahmoud-- the acting prime minister said, you know, in some ways i wish that he could have gone on trial and i wish that i had been the attorney general for that. but then he also said i just want him to vanish, to disappear. i think that many libyans are actually relieved that he is dead. what they are thinking about now is the new libya. they have to start from scratch. they have to build a new country. >> brown: and indeed the acting prime minister did speak today of starting that new libial as he called it. but what does that mean, what is the transitional government saying about its immediate next steps?
>> well, the first thing is that i think later tonight or more likely tomorrow, they will declare the liberation of all of libya. because as well as colonel qaddafi being killed, they have now got control of sirte which was the last stronghold. and after that, there is supposed to be a pathway towards democracy. they are talking about elections in eight months time. now some people say how can they possibly have elections so soon. because really we're talking about a country which has no institutions, no state. the state was qaddafi. every decision was made by him. every other institution that there might have been, he destroyed it. it was just him and his family. so they do also have problems. because however joyous people are today, there are decisions in this country. there are many differenten-- there are divisions. many different towns and colonel qaddafi was the one is a say the-- but all those
different towns are saying well, we're the ones who did it. we are the ones who are the bravest. we are the ones who take credit for overthrowing qaddafi. we are the ones who should have the greatest share of power. so i think that there are problems to come. and there are certainly rivalries which we're already seeing springing up in this new libya. >> brown: lindsey hilsum in tripoli, thank iss so much. >> you're welcome. >> warner: moammar qaddafi loomed large on the world stage. gwen ifill looks at how he came to power, his more than four decades of iron-fisted rule and his contentious relationship with the united states. >> ifill: the man who met his end today had ruled libya with a brutal hand since 1969. moammar qaddafi was a 27-year- old colonel when he led a bloodless coup that deposed the government of king idriss. over the decade, the eccentric son of a bedouin herder periodically and flamboyantly claimed the world stage. he was often characterized as
unstable. >> we read that you are mad >> ( laughs ) >> you know those things have been printed. does it make you angry? >> ( translated ): of course, it irritates me. never the less, i consider or do believe a majority of ordinary people in the four corners of the globe do love me. >> ifill: but his infamous support of international terror inspired little love. libya's vast oil wealth was widely considered the source of financing for training camps. but qaddafi denied those charges. in 1981, he appeared on "the macneil/lehrer" report. >> how do you answer charges you support terrorists? >> this accusation without any justification. no evidence we support or
promote terrorism, i'm against terrorism absolutely. >> ifill: in that same interview he chastised washington, after his diplomats were expelled by the reagan administration. >> what kind of retaliation can u.s. expect for explusion. >> i don't expect now anything because not... not serious we lost nothing. >> ifill: but in 1986, the u.s. blamed libya for the bombing of a berlin nightclub, killing two american soldiers and wounding more than 50. president reagan dubbed qaddafi: >> the mad dog of the middle east. >> ifill: and followed up with bombing raids on tripoli and benghazi. >> we have done what we had to do and, if necessary, we shall do it again. >> ifill: 45 libyans were killed, including qaddafi's adopted daughter at the family compound. what had by now become a cycle of retribution between the u.s.
and libya climaxed two years later in the skies over lockerbie, scotland. just before christmas, 1988, pan am flight 103 was bombed, killing 270 people in the air and on the ground. libya was directly tied to the attack. qaddafi denied complicity, even though libyan intelligence agents were later tried, and convicted, for the bombing. but more than a decade later, the libyan government paid millions of dollars to families of the pan am victims. and in 2003, just days after the capture of saddam hussein, qaddafi made another important overture to the west. >> today in tripoli the leader of libya, colonel moammar al- qaddafi, publicly confirmed his commitment to disclose and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction programs in his country. >> ifill: that decision paved the way for renewed diplomatic relations between the u.s. and libya.
business investment flowed into the oil-rich nation, bolstering the vast reserves that were the source of qaddafi's power. nearly 20 years before, robert macneil asked qaddafi if that grip could ever be broken. >> do you fear your regime may be ended by a coup? >> i am not afraid and it is not my regime. it's people are the regime. >> ifill: but a quarter century later, those very people took up arms against him, inspired by uprisings throughout the middle east and northern africa. >> we saw what happened in egypt and tunisia. last thursday, we came out to demonstrate and were attacked. police were shooting at us. our brothers and sisters are being killed. >> ifill: libya's uprising began in the eastern city of benghazi and though the rebels were emboldened, they were at first uncoordinated and often unarmed. with international support, that soon changed.
qaddafi insisted he would never leave. >> ( translated ): moammar qaddafi is the glory. i have my gun, i have my rifle and i will fight for libya. >> ifill: in mid-march, nato began airstrikes and other operations aimed at protecting civilians. still, the pro-qaddafi forces did not relent. as the rebels pressed on, many civilians were caught in the crossfire or trapped. spring and summer saw an incremental rebel advance. and last month the united states joined 30 other countries in recognizing the national transitional council as libya's legitimate government. the capital, tripoli, fell to the rebels in august. in his last days, qaddafi was reduced to sending out radio messages to what remained of his regime now, eight months after the revolt began, that regime is no more. >> warner: late today, qaddafi's body was paraded through the streets of misrata-- a city between sirte and tripoli.
and there were reports he would be buried in a secret location. reaction to qaddafi's demise came from leaders around the world. libya's ambassador to the united states ali aujali rejoiced at today's news. >> the era of terror, the era of frustration, the era of abuse, the era of dictatorship is over. the libyan people-- they celebrate in every city of libya. >> warner: in new york, united nations secretary general ban ki-moon said now was the time for all libyans to come together. >> in the coming days, we will witness scenes of celebration, as well as grief for those who lost so much. yet let us recognize, immediately, that this is only the end of the beginning. the road ahead for libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges.
>> warner: in london, prime minister david cameron of britain, which played a leading role in the nato bombing operation also focused on the road ahead. >> people in libya today have an even greater chance, after this news, of building themselves a strong and democratic future. i'm proud of the role that britain has played in helping them to bring that about and i pay tribute to the bravery of the libyans who've helped to liberate their country. we will help them, we will work with them. >> warner: and in moscow, russian president dmitry medvedev said he was confident the new government would succeed. >> ( translated ): in any case, we expect that peace will come to libya. all those who govern the country today, representatives of various libyan tribes, will be able to reach agreement on the configuration of the government, and libya will become a modern and democratic state. >> brown: and in washington, president obama said a new day has dawned for the libyan people. here is his rose garden statement in full.
>> today the government of libya announced the death of moammar qaddafi. this marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic libya. for four decades the qaddafi regime ruled the libyan people with an iron fist. basic human rights were denied, innocent civilians were detained, beaten and killed. and libya's wealth was squandered. the enormous potential of the libyan people was held back and terror was used as a political weapon. today we can definitively say that the qaddafi regime has come to an end. the last major regime strongholds have fallen. the new government is consolidating the control over the country. and one of the world's-- world's longest serving dictators is no more.
one year ago the notion of a free libya seemed impossible. but then the libyan people rose up and demanded their rights. and when qaddafi and his forces started going city to city, town by town to brutalize men, women and children, the world refused to stand idly by. faced with the potential of mass atrocities and a call for help from the libyan people, the united states and our friends and allies stopped qaddafi's forces in their tracks. a coalition that included the united states, nato and arab nations persevered through the summer to protect libyan civilians. and meanwhile, the courageous libyan people fought for their own future and broke the back of the regime. so this is a momentous day in the history of libya. the dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted, and with this enormous promise, the
libyan people now have a great responsibility. to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to qaddafi's dictatorship. we look forward to the announcement of the country's liberation, the quick formation of an interim government, and a stable transition to libya's first free and fair elections. and we call on our libyan friends to continue to work with the international community to secure dangerous materials, and to respect the human rights of all libyans including those who have been detained. we're under no illusions. libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. there will be difficult days ahead. but the united states together with the international community is committed to the libyan people. you have won your revolution. and now we will be a partner
as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity. for the region today's events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end. across the arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. and those leaders who try to deny their human dignity will not succeed. for us here in the united states, we are reminded today of all those americans that we lost at the hands of qaddafi's terror, their families and friends, are in our thoughts and in our prayers. we recall their bright smiles, their extraordinary lives and their tragic deaths. we know that nothing can close the wound of their loss but we stand together as one nation by their side. for nearly eight months many americans have provided extraordinary service in support of our efforts to
protect the libyan people. and to provide them with a chance to determine their own destiny. our skilled diplomats had helped to lead an unprecedented global response. our brave pilots have flown in libya's skies. our sailors have provided support off libya's shores. and our leadership at nato has helped guide our coalition. without putting a single u.s. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives. and our nato mission will soon come to an end. this comes at a time when we see the strength of american leadership across the world. we have taken out al qaeda leaders and we put them on the path to defeat. we're winding down the war in iraq and have begun a transition in afghanistan. and now working in libya with friends and allies we've demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.
of course above all today's belongs to the people of libya. this is a moment for them to remember all those who suffered and were lost under qaddafi and look forward to the promise of a new day. and i know the american people wish the people of libya the very best in what will be a challenging but hopeful days, weeks, months and years ahead. thank you very much. >> warner: what does today's news say about president obama's decision to intervene in libya and his approach? for that, we get two views: richard haass was director of policy planning at the state department during the george w. bush administration. he's now president of the council on foreign relations. in early march, he wrote an op- ed in the "wall street journal" titled: "the u.s. should keep out of libya." and james steinberg was deputy secretary of state in the obama administration until june of this year. he's now the dean of syracuse university's maxwell school of
citizenship and public affairs. richard haass, your reaction to what the president just had to say. did today's outcome justify, vindicate his decision to intervene? >> i don't think so and i don't say that to be politically critical, if you will. i don't think the case for intervention was overpowering. but more important, as significant as what it is we may have accomplished up to now, the biggest question is how libya plays out from this point on. and margaret, history will judge this very differently if say in two or three years libya looks like a successful thriving democracy, a market oriented country, that would be one possible outcome but at the other end of the spectrum is obvious a libya that looked like a failed state where sectarianism and tribalism took over and people who agreed on ousting the old regime can't agree on much else, with all the weapons in the country falling into
the wrong hands and so forth. so i think some of of his history's judgement will depend on how libya looks not today but two, three, five years from pod. >> warner: jim steinberg, you were in the administration at the time, what is your response to that? >> you know, margaret, obviously you can't know what the future will hold. you i think you have to judge this by the circumstances that the president and the international community were facing. the prospect of a huge humanitarian disaster, the threat that qaddafi had done but perhaps more important, the unique coming together of the people of libya and broad international community support from arab countries, our european allies and the united states standing in support of this. i think this is a real triumph for an approach to international affairs in dealing with these news fors changing the middle east, that is an important achievement going forward and sending a strong signal about the world, the united states and our ability to work with others to get that done. >> warner: richard haass the president said also it was the kind much partnership
that the u.s. can have in the 21st century. the british and french led the bombing campaign with the u.s. in a supporting role. do you think this, one, it vindicates that decision and two, that it is a model for this 21st century? >> i wish it were but it won't for several reasons. libya presented a relatively easy area to intervene. you have a very small population, very low population density. for example, very different than the sort of situation you see in neighboring syria. you had an extraordinary degree of international support in europe, throughout the arab world. but again that sort of support is to the going to be re-created in other situations. so i simply don't think this is a template. plus the european was played such a central role here, they're cutting their defense spending significantly. so when i look out at the future, i actually think libya is something of a one off and i think we're kidding ourselves if we think the united states can play a modest role and other countries are going to be
willing and able to play large roles in situations that are tough and tougher than what we've seen here over the last accept enor eight months. >> jim steinberg, do you think this is something of a one off for the reasons that mr. haass just innumerated. >> i think each situation is unique, parg receipt. you can't apply the rules in one case to another in a kind of mechanical way. we have seen examples in the past when the international community with the united states and nato intervened to stop the humanitarian crisis in kosovo, that was another case where we had the opportunity to make a difference. and not only did it avoid a humanitarian disaster there, but ultimately lead to the triumph of democratic forces in serbia. so i think we have to apply these lessons judd iciously, use judgement in each case. but i think the strong signal here is under the right set of circumstances the international community is prepared to act. and it sends a strong signal to others who want to use the kind of brutality that qaddafi has done, that they need to think twice about the risks they run might be. >> warner: richard haass your point both in your "the
wall street journal" piece and also here on this program in early march was in the end libya just wasn't a vital u.s. interest. there were more important countries in that region. that it was going to be too costly. do you still think it wasn't worth the risk? i mean as the president said today, not one u.s. service member was on the ground and as vice president biden said, no american was killed. >> well, they're right and it cost perhaps something just north of a billion dollars which is in and of itself to the going to break the bank. but i think we have to ask ourselves the question coming back to where we began. it's one thing to oust this regime for all of its flaws. on the other hand, the united states was able in the last few years to work with libya in certain ways against terrorism and in particular against weapons of mass destruction. let's see what takes its place. let's see in two or three years if libya looks something more like yemen or somalia where terrorists once again or radical islamists can gain a foothold. and then we may need to think twice about it this. i think the annals are
everything from an incomplete and of course, maybe the fourth inning in i baseball game. we just can't judge whether this was justified. i don't think the situation at the time warranted it. our interests were not vital. i do not believe libya was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe but in the long run let's again see what it looks like. i think that is the only way we can really judge whether it was worth it. and the answer is we still don't know and that tells you something, margaret. we don't really know all that much about the people now who are going to compete for power. and that's one of the reasons i was cautious before this intervention actually began. >> warner: jim steinberg, how confident are you that the outcome will be at least better for the united states than having qaddafi remain in power. and should that have been part of the calculation? >> well, i think it was part of the calculation, margaret. and i think the way to judge this is to think about what would happen if we didn't act. richard is skeptical that qaddafi wouldn't have been true to his words when he threatened to treat his people like rats and massacre them.
but his own record even in the weeks leading up to the threats in benghazi proved he was prepared to use that kind of brutality. and imagine if we hadn't joined. if we hadn't responded to the gulf cooperation council, to the arab partners, to the arab league which asked the united states and europe to become involved. if we had stood back and let qaddafi stay in power and carry forward. think the signal that would send in egypt, in algeria, to people throughout the region. i think that's the test. we can't be certain that we'll have a perfectly smooth transition forward to democracy. but the one thing is for sure, if we had stayed back and allowed qaddafi to succeed under these circumstances, that the impact on the united states credibility would have been badly damaged and people would have wondered why the united states wasn't prepared to join with so many other countries when there was this unique opportunity to make a difference. >> warner: so richard haass, what impact do you think this will have in the region in countries that you had identified as more vital u.s. interests, egypt, let's say, or syria, or in the
gulf. >> i think it will have a dual impact. it may encourage people in the street to think that if they push hard enough they can prevail. but i think even more it's going to lead the people running these countries like syria, like bahrain, possibly like egypt to dig in. they're going to basically say we live in a winner take all part of the world. we have got to hang tough. because the alternative is we are going to be ultimately not just ousted but killed. so my hunch is this actually will probably lead to if anything greater polarization and conceivably even greater conflict in the middle east. >> warner: what do you think of that, jim steinberg, could it, i mean the images, particularly of qaddafi being brutally killed lake that today. >> you know, again, it is speculation, margaret. i read it very differently. i think it sends a signal that there is a different choice. that people like president assad in syria can listen not only to the united states and europe but turkey
and others and say you need to answer the legitimate aspirations of your own people. if you and the people you care about are going to survive, the way to do this is to move forward on reform. so i think that this could be interpreted very differently and could send a powerful signal that there is really only one safe way out for these leaders which is to recognize that ultimately history is on the side of these democratic movements and they can either help facilitate that or they run the risk that we saw today. >> and mr. haass, really briefly to you, do you think could say to these leaders you better get a negotiated solution and get out of the country? >> they don't believe that a negotiated solution is in their best interests or their people. they're not looking to lose power. they're looking to keep power so my hunch is they're going to probably fight to the finish if that's what it takes. >> warner: richard haass and jim steinberg, thank you both. >> thank you. >> brown: still to come on the "newshour": the science of predicting earthquakes and the test for prostate cancer. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan.
>> sreenivasan: secretary of state hillary clinton issued a blunt warning to pakistan today: boost your anti-terror fight. she made the remarks during a visit to afghanistan where she met with afghan president hamid karzai. at a news conference in kabul, she warned safe havens for terrorists would have serious consequences on both sides of the border. >> our message is very clear we are going to be fighting, we are going to be talking and we are going to be building and they can either be helping or hindering, but we are not going to stop our efforts to create a strong foundation for an afghanistan that is free from interference, violence, conflict and has a chance to chart its own future. >> sreenivasan: later in the day, clinton traveled to pakistan along with c.i.a. director david petraeus and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general martin dempsey to meet with pakistani prime minister yousaf raza gilani. basque separtists today declared an end to their violent campaign to gain independence from spain and france.
since the late 1960s, the separatist group known as e.t.a. has killed more than 800 people in bombings and shootings in their quest for independence. in a statement today, the group renounced armed struggle as a tool on the path to independence, and said it now wants to open direct talks with spain and france. nearly 10,000 turkish troops took part in a ground offensive against kurdish rebels in iraq. about a thousand of those troops entered iraq along the southeastern border. it marked turkey's largest attack on the rebels in more than three years. the offensive was prompted after kurdish forces killed 24 turkish soldiers in a raid yesterday. protesters rampaged outside the greek parliament today, as a vote was underway inside to impose new austerity measures. riot police tried to separate more than 50,000 protesters from smaller groups inciting the violence. those protesters threw firebombs and stones. more than 74 people were treated for injuries. the greek parliament did approve
the new tax hikes, pension and pay cuts. the measure was necessary before greece can receive the next installment in a mutli-billion dollar bailout loan. european leaders postponed a weekend summit on what to do about new financing for greece. french and german leaders said they needed more time to assess plans for strengthening the bailout fund. that uncertainty in europe had stocks on wall street zig zagging all day. in the end, the dow jones industrial average gained 37 points to close above 11,541. the nasdaq fell five points to close at 2,598. the state of california was poised to formally adopt the most comprehensive cap-and-trade system in the nation. the program is designed to give financial incentives to polluters for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. the regulations will take effect in 2013 beginning with the worst polluting facilities. it aims to eventually cover 85% of california's emissions. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff.
>> brown: next: preparing for and predicting earthquakes. california and other western states conducted major earthquake drills today. it was the fourth year california held the exercise and the largest yet with more than eight million people participating. to dramatize what could happen, authorities brought earthquake simulators to cities including heyward, which sits on a fault expected to rupture again within the next few decades. the simulator was designed to mimic some of the effects of a 7.5 quake. emergency officials demonstrated recommended responses such as the "drop and cover" technique. preparing is one thing. having the time and ability to warn people in advance is another. "newshour" science correspondent miles o'brien reports on efforts to make those predictions after the tohuku earthquake hit japan
earlier this year. >> reporter: it is a trial that has scientists all over the world in an uproar. six seismologists and one government official charged with manslaughter, because they did not predict this-- the 2009 earthquake in laquila, italy, which killed more than 300. many here are comparing it to the trial of galileo in 1633. he was found guilty of heresy for suggesting the earth was not the center of the universe. it's not a galileo trial, says a victims lawyer. but it is definitely a trial to find out if there were some responsibilities, some omissions, behaviors or wrong doings on the part of the scientists. if found guilty, the accused could face 15 years in prison. should scientists be held criminally accountable for these kinds of things? >> i don't think they should be if they are doing their job.
>> reporter: jim mori is a professor of seismology at kyoto university. >> we don't know enough to make a good prediction and i don't think you can be held responsible something that you really are not aware of. >> reporter: if any nation could predict an earthquake, it would likely be japan. scientists here have been hard at work on this elusive goal since the great kanto earthquake of 1923, which killed 145,000 and prompted the founding of the earthquake research institute at tokyo university. seismologist naoshi hirata is the director of the earthquake prediction research center here. how difficult a challenge is it to predict an earthquake with some certainty? >> an earthquake is a kind of catastrophe in the rock and there is a breakage. it's very difficult to determine very precisely the place and what is going on.
>> reporter: but they are trying mightily, as professor hirata showed me. >> this is the distribution of small earthquake below japanese islands >> reporter: using japan's uniquely dense network of seismometers, researchers have created a detailed map of previous earthquakes. connect the dots and you have a 3-d map of the faults that threaten japan. it is a very clear view in the rear view mirror, but not a crystal ball. could you say, march 11th, 2:46 p.m., magnitude 9.0, take cover? are we going to ever get to that point? >> no, i don't think so because the magnitude nine earthquake is so huge, it's impossible to put all of the sensors on such huge areas. there was a time when seismologists were much more sanguine about earthquake predictions.
>> about 40 years ago, most seismologists really thought that within maybe a few years or ten years, earthquake prediction would be a reality. >> reporter: in 1975, a chinese seismologist predicted the 7.3 magnitude hai cheng earthquake the day before it happened, prompting a mass evacuation, saving countless lives. it is the only documented prediction of a major earthquake ever, but today scientists believe it was little more than good luck. 40 years of looking hard later, where are we? >> it's just turned out to be a lot more complicated, a lot harder. the earth seems to be a lot more heterogeneous and so the signs or the clear changes are not so clear. and so we just have a very difficult time now determining what's happening before an earthquake. what's just sort of part of the natural complexity of changes that are going on in the earth or around faults before an earthquake. and we haven't been able to find that sort of magic precursor.
>> reporter: ah, the magic precursor, over the years there have been no shortage of odd notions, unusual cloud patterns, surges in electromagnetic radiation or radon gas and any number of odd animal behaviors-- frogs or snakes on the march, even catfish doing a jig. bob geller is a professor of geophysics at the university of tokyo >> the animals aren't nearly as sensitive as scientific instruments for making measurements. >> reporter: the day i met professor geller, he was on the front page of a big national newspaper, after he called on the japanese parliament to repeal a 1978 law that mandates government funding and a concerted effort to predict the tokai earthquake tokyo's big one. how much money is being spent on an annual basis in japan in pursuit of this quixotic goal? >> well, i'll give you around number of a $100 million or so. >> reporter: a year? >> yeah.
>> reporter: geller believes the money would be better spent retrofitting old structures to be more quake resistant. hard as predictions may be, japan does operate the most sophisticated earthquake and tsunami early warning system in the world, i visited the command center at the japanese meteorological agency in tokyo. while i was there, an aftershock of the devastating march 11 earthquake got the crews attention, but it was not big enough to sound an alarm. akihiko wakayama is the man in charge. he told me when we detect the big earthquake within a few minutes we will send out the signals of the earthquake happening and if a tsunami is also involved we also send out a tsunami warning. the alerts go to the media, millions of cellphones and automatically stop elevators, hazardous industrial mechanisms and bullet trains.
here is how it works: every earthquake creates a primary or "p" wave and a secondary or "s" wave. the latter does the damage. the former, only detectable by seismometers, has a much smaller amplitude and thus moves much faster. so, the early warning system takes advantage of a gap not unlike the time between lightning and thunder. an early warning system is ideally suited for an earthquake where the epicenter is a fairly good distance away from the people you would like to warn. i am in kobe, japan right now. in 1995, the great earthquake here caused extensive damage and killed about 6,000 people. this is some of the damage that has been preserved here in a memorial park on the port. in the case of the kobe earthquake, the epicenter was about 20 kilometers from where i am standing right now putting this city effectively in the early warning system blind spot.
as it turns out, japan's early warning system did not provide very accurate warnings of the magnitude 9.0 tohuku event. it predicted a magnitude 7.9-- a huge difference in the logarithmic scale of earthquake intensity. >> this is the beginning. it is a magnitude 4.0. >> reporter: engineering professor masumi yamada of kyoto university showed me the problem. the march 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake unzipped a fault 500 kilometers long off the pacific coast of japan. but not all at once, it was a long chain reaction. our current system assumes this earthquake just occurs only a point. so that caused problem. meanwhile, the ruptures kept coming rolling like a southbound freight train toward tokyo. so are you worried that people might lose faith in the system? >> we definitely need some improvement of the system so that its still useful information for people.
>> reporter: the inaccurate warning had disastrous consequences, as it predicted a tsunami that would not have overtopped most seawalls, lulling people into a false sense of security. so even an accurate early warning system, much less a way to predict earthquakes with some specificity further in advance remains elusive. is there something that science is missing right now that will be discovered eventually? or is this one of these chaotic things that might be impossible to predict? >> i think that we mentioned the last time; it might be very difficult to predict because any earthquake, even the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, starts from a very small source and then grows to a huge dimension. and so, if we want to predict a magnitude 9.0 ahead of time we have to actually predict that very small beginning. and right now, its very difficult to distinguish that small beginning of magnitude 9.0 from a small beginning of a magnitude 5.0 or 6.0. so in a nation that is perhaps
the most earthquake savvy in the world they have learned a lesson in the limits of seismology and science in general. fortunately for the scientists here, it won't be a lesson paid in prison. >> brown: that's the first of three stories miles will be filing from japan for us. in his next reports, he'll look more closely at tsunamis and detecting radiation after the nuclear disaster. >> warner: finally tonight, there have been lots of reactions and questions raised in the medical community to a government panel's recommendation for changing the way men are screened for prostate cancer. "newshour" health correspondent betty ann bowser has been sampling some of the responses among patients and doctors. >> reporter: 65-year-old terry dyroff and his wife patricia can't forget what happened four years ago, shortly after he underwent a biopsy for prostate cancer.
the retired professor had the procedure after a p.s.a. test showed high levels of protein being released from his prostate gland, a possible indication of cancer. >> we were told to give the office a call if there were you know developed a fever. i had my wife call them but she couldn't get them right away. i would guess within 15 minutes i said forget trying to reach somebody, you've just got to get me to the emergency room. this is, i've never experienced anything like this. so it came on very, very quickly. >> reporter: the infection was a rare complication and dyroff recovered. but its those kinds of complications connected with the testing that have stirred controversy around a new government recommendation on the test, which is now routinely given to men over 50. prostate cancer is a slow-
growing cancer that does not progress outside of the prostate gland. but many urologists point to research that clearly shows that the death rate for prostate cancer has dropped dramatically- - a disease that strikes one in six men. but earlier this month, an influential government panel recommended that healthy men should not be routinely tested. the u.s. preventive services task force said the p.s.a. test causes more harm than good, often triggering a series of unnecessary biopsies, surgery and radiation. the report found 95% percent of men with p.s.a.-detected cancer who are followed for 12 years do not die from that cancer, even without treatment. >> the p.s.a. test may seem like a simple blood test. the issue is what happens afterwards. >> reporter: dr. michael barry is the president of the non- profit foundation for informed
medical decision making and a primary care physician at massachusetts general hospital in boston. the risks include infections like dyroff's and treatments that can leave men incontinent or impotent. >> many men of course would say that in order to beat prostate cancer it's worth putting up with those side effects. unfortunately, we know that many of those men would have been treated for cancers not destined to cause future problems. but we can't tell which ones and sometimes any man whose been treated would think he was the one who's life has been saved by this task and the side effects would be worthwhile. >> reporter: more than 217,000 american men were diagnosed with the disease last year. 32,000 died from it. like the majority of urologists, dr. john lynch disagrees with the task force findings. he's chairman of the urology department at georgetown
university in washington, d-c. and a board member of the american urological association. >> prostate cancer is the second leading cause of male cancer deaths today, even with the p.s.a. test. it's not 100% accurate, but it's the best that we have and the only test that we have. >> reporter: dr. lynch, a prostate cancer survivor himself, is concerned that the report will encourage men to stop being tested, and more men will die. >> before p.s.a. tests, about two thirds of the patents that i saw who had the diagnosis of prostate cancer made, had advanced prostate cancer. i don't want to go back to that time. most of the men today have early disease that's treatable and curable. >> reporter: ronald baum is one of dr. lynch's patients. he recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer. >> i've had no problems. i've p.s.a. readings for the past ten years i have no objections to it and my feeling is it buys you piece of mind. my feeling is that the p.s.a. reading at least gives you some insight of whether or not
anything is forming inside your body. >> reporter: dr. lynch hopes others will continue getting tested, though he acknowledged the task force findings have caused some confusion among his patients. >> some patients in the last week have expressed some confusion. i have not any patient refuse to get a p.s.a. check or tell me they don't want their p.s.a. checked. >> not every prostate cancer again needs to be treated but many of them do and then it gets into the treatment decisions which is the best treatment for that particular patient. there are complications from every treatment. but do the benefits outweigh the risks that's the big question and that depends on the type of cancer. >> reporter: but for some men like terry dyroff, the decision has already been made. although there's a history of prostate cancer in his family, after careful consideration, he's decided to forgo future p.s.a. tests. >> it doesn't really save lives. that there are too many false readings and a lot of times as
in my case you can have complications from the biopsy that are worse than anything you might have otherwise. >> reporter: dr. barry said that may not be true for all patients and each needs to decide what to do about p.s.a. testing themselves. >> men need to have big role in deciding whether the p.s.a. test is right for them. rather having an expert panel whether from the u.s. preventive services task for or the american urological association saying one size fits all for all men. men should be informed about the potential albeit uncertain benefits and the potential for side effects and work with their clinicians to make a decision of what's right for them. >> reporter: the draft recommendation is open to public comment until november 8.
>> brown: again, the major developments of the day: libyans rejoiced after longtime dictator moammar qaddafi was killed in a battle in his hometown of sirte. president obama told the libyan people, "you have won your revolution." and protesters rampaged outside the greek parliament as it voted to approve a new round of strict austerity measures. there's much more about libya online. hari sreenivasan has a preview. hari? >> sreenivasan: we look back at moammar qaddafi's four-decade grip on power. find a timeline on our world page. miles o'brien offers more on japan's post-tsunami rebuilding efforts, including ways to prevent another disaster and change in the nation's reliance on nuclear energy. that's on our science page. and on art beat, we talk to daniel clowes-- author of the new graphic novel "the death- ray." it offers a unique take on the superhero comic genre and adolescence. all that and more is on our web site: newshour.pbs.org. margaret? >> warner: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm margaret warner. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark
shields and david brooks, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> oil companies make huge profits. >> last year, chevron made a lot of money. >> where does it go? >> every penny and more went into bringing energy to the world. >> the economy is tough right now, everywhere. >> we pumped $21 million into local economies, into small businesses, communities, equipment, materials. >> that money could make a big difference to a lot of people. and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations.